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September 2016

Letter from Paolo Di Leo, Assistant Curate, St Margaretís Church and Luton Parish Centre.

I wish to thank every one for the warm and gracious welcome extended to my wife Fiona and I as we begin our time of service, fellowship and friendship in the Parish of St Margaret. Fiona and I have lived in Barton Le Clay for over 13 years with our five children most of whom have now left to build families of their own. We both work in and around Herts, Beds and Bucks and know the area well, having also lived in Luton and Toddington for many years before coming to Barton Le Clay.

Having recently been ordained and beginning a new ministry in a new parish this gift of welcome is deeply appreciated and we are thankful for the love and care that has been shown to us.

Love is a gift that needs to be graciously and thankfully received since love requires some form of risk, giving and some would say sacrifice from the giver. To many of you, we are strangers yet you have welcomed us into the community making us feel accepted and loved. This is a gift we cherish and are thankful for.

As a church this love of the unknown person, the stranger, is a gift that mirrors the very life and will of God and the mission of the church. It is a love that is defined by holy and eternal boundaries; not earthly ones.

It is, a love that can reach out beyond those we know such as family and friends, a love that extends itself out without fear, into a world where love is not easily recognized or given without some form of payback or return. It is the kind of love that flows from the heart of the loving Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit who themselves characterize and embody total love in relationship to the world and freely share it with us in relationship and community with others.

A biblical passage that has informed and in many ways shaped my ministry has been John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

In this passage we are told of a kind of love that goes beyond kindness and caring. It is a love that gives and sacrifices itself for others, creating, healing and renewing lives. It is a love that calls to the whole of creation to be loved and be reconciled to itself and to God. It is a love that is given to us without reservation. This kind of love is not an emotion but and action, an action that gives without needing or taking.

C.S Lewis tells us:

Love in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of feelings but of will; that state; of the will that we have naturally about ourselves and must learn to have for other people. (C.S. Lewis, What Christians Believe, The Complete C.S. Lewis, p. 109).

As we learn to love we grow in love and are transformed by it, thereby transforming all the lives we touch every day. Our feelings may come and go but love, our love for one another and Godís love for us lives and resides forever.

It is this kind of love, that Fiona and I have experienced in the parish. It is this kind of love that underpins and drives the mission of the church, a church that is called to love and serve as God loves and serves us.

Paolo Di Leo

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